Medieval Studies Nicolò de’ Rossi
Fabio Sangiovanni
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 June 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0270


Nicolò de’ Rossi (c. 1295–c. post-1348) was born in Treviso, Italy, toward the end of the 13th century and died in Venice after 1348. Beyond a preeminent legal activity that allowed him to take part as a Guelph to the unstable political events of those years, he was one of the most important literary personalities of his age in northern Italy. His cultural renown within the Trevisan area is confirmed by the fact that after the completion of his law studies in Bologna in 1318, he was preferred over Cino da Pistoia as professor of civil law at the academic Studium of Treviso, and he was often chosen as one of the members of diplomatic missions in several troublesome circumstances (in particular during the war against Cangrande della Scala). However, his name is primarily remembered because of his fervent literary activity: his poetic production includes more than 400 poems (sonnets and four canzoni, one associated to a Latin commentary) written between 1317 and 1329, collected, almost as a lyric canzoniere, in the manuscript Colombino 7.1.32 preserved at the Biblioteca Capitular in Seville. These poems mainly deal with love subjects (he experienced all the possibilities offered by the coeval tradition, from Guittone’s style to Stilnovo styles), as well as with political, moral, realistic, and religious themes. Furthermore, thanks to the testimony of this manuscript, we are able to recognize him as the author of the first vernacular examples of figurative poetry: by renewing the model of the Latin carmina figurata, he integrated the phonic element into the graphic one through the elaboration of complex visual architectures for four poems. His importance in the Veneto region is also due to his activity as a veritable editor of the Italian lyric tradition, as witnessed by another manuscript (Barberiniano lat. 3953 of the Vatican Library), collecting a wide series of Tuscan texts (by Dante, Cavalcanti, Cino da Pistoia, Cecco Angiolieri, etc.) that constitute a remarkable anthology based on particular criteria of selection and inner order.

Literary Overviews

A thorough general overview of the history of poetry in northern Italy, with a peculiar attention paid to the Venetian region, is offered in Brugnolo 2010, which includes the broad-spectrum outlines of Brugnolo 1976, devoted to the development of the Tuscan poetry in Veneto, and Brugnolo 1980, which studies the presence of vernacular texts and cultures in the Trevisan area. Lippi 1991 is focused on the Italo-Romance production of the 13th and 14th centuries, while Holmes 2000, the only contribution in English, gives a concise description of Nicolò de’ Rossi’s literary activity.

  • Brugnolo, Furio. “I toscani nel Veneto e le cerchie toscaneggianti.” In Storia della cultura veneta, Vol. 2, Il Trecento. Edited by Girolamo Arnaldi and Manlio Pastore Stocchi, 369–439. Vicenza, Italy: Neri Pozza, 1976.

    The essay offers a fundamental and wide-ranging outline of the 14th-century lyric production in Veneto, focusing on the processes by which the Tuscan poetry influenced this cultural area, next to the Old French and the Provençal texts (for these, see Brugnolo 2010, pp. 139–258 as “I toscani nel Veneto e la poesia veneta toscaneggiante del primo Trecento”; Nicolò de’ Rossi at pp. 207–236).

  • Brugnolo, Furio. “La cultura volgare trevisana della prima metà del Trecento.” In Tomaso da Modena e il suo tempo: Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi per il 6 centenario della morte; Treviso, 31 agosto–3 settembre 1979. Edited by Comitato Manifestazioni Tomaso da Modena, 157–184. Treviso, Italy: Comitato Manifestazioni Tomaso da Modena, 1980.

    A seminal contribution on the cultural framework of Treviso at the beginning of the 14th century; some important annotations to Nicolò de’ Rossi’s texts, to the so-called canzone di Auliver, and to the textual presence of Dante Alighieri (now in Brugnolo 2010, pp. 288–334).

  • Brugnolo, Furio. Meandri: Studi sulla lirica veneta e italiana settentrionale del Due-Trecento. Rome: Antenore, 2010.

    The monograph includes crucial studies dealing with the Venetian poetry of the Middle Ages, from the origins to Trecento. The whole series of contributions offers an up-to-date overview on the lyric production in northern Italy.

  • Holmes, Olivia. “Nicolò de’ Rossi.” In Assembling the Lyric Self: Authorship from Troubadour Song to Italian Poetry Book. By Olivia Holmes, 145–169. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

    Based on the book’s central topic, the chapter devoted to Nicolò de’ Rossi aims at studying his hypothetical will of setting up the collection of his texts in a veritable canzoniere.

  • Lippi, Emilio. “La letteratura in volgare di sì a Treviso nel Due e Trecento.” In Storia di Treviso. Vol. 2, Il Medioevo. Edited by Daniela Rando and Gian Maria Varanini, 451–486. Venice: Marsilio, 1991.

    An overview of the literary activities in Treviso in the 13th and 14th centuries, with a selection of texts (Nicolò de’ Rossi at pp. 466–474; the contribution is now Emilio Lippi, Contributi di filologia veneta [Treviso, Italy: Antilia, 2003]), pp. 47–92.

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